THE FORM book went out the window when Kilkenny got the better of Offaly in their Leinster under-21 semi-final, but one man wasn’t surprised.
“Every result in Leinster this year - whether it’s at minor, senior or under-21 level - hasn’t gone the way it was expected to,” said Kilkenny boss Richie Mulrooney. “In fairness to our lads they showed massive character in the second half. When we went behind by a goal they responded and got the last 1-5.”
Much of that was down to the players who came off the bench and helped make a difference.
“Our substitutions certainly worked,” he said. “Michael Brennan came on and got the goal, Jack Langton did well in the middle of the field and Conor Martin made an impact as soon as he came in.
“All of our substitutions worked in our favour,” he said. “When you win that’s something you always say but we felt we had to make those changes and we had the right personnel to go in.”
“That’s what the panel is there for,” the manager continued. “Those lads are now pushing for places in the final, and will show that when we get back to the training field.”
In what was a tough battle Kilkenny didn’t get the start they wanted. However, the team didn’t let frustration seep in to their game.
“It wasn’t frustrating - you have to expect that anything can happen out there,” said Mulrooney. “You’re not going to come up to a place like Tullamore and have everything go your way, particularly after how they had done in the senior match against Kilkenny. Offaly gave a very good performance that night. We just have to work ahead now to the final.”
The manager was quick to praise his players, who showed resilience to keep themselves in the game by half-time.
“We had a number of excellent performances all over the field,” he said. “I thought Willie Phelan was excellent at full-back, Brian Kennedy was magnificent from the throw-in and played a captain’s part while Cillian Buckley kept us going.
“Up front we took some poor options with regards to shooting but that happens,” he added. “If we hadn’t been getting the shots in it would have been something else. We’ll just have to be more clinical and pick out the man in the better position. That’s something we’ll work on.”
And work is something Kilkenny will have plenty of, especially as they face an old rival in the form of Wexford in the final on July 10.
“That’ll be a real tough battle,” Mulrooney predicted. “The game will be especially tough if, as expected, it is to be played in Wexford Park.”
SCORERS: Kilkenny - John Power (0-10, 0-6 frees, 0-3 65); Michael Brennan (1-1); Kevin Kelly (0-4); Cillian Buckley, Ger Aylward, Shane Donnelly, Richie Reid (0-1 each). Offaly - Stephen Quirke (1-10, 1-7 frees); Thomas Geraghty (0-2); Aodhan Kealey (0-1).
Kilkenny - A. Duggan (Dicksboro), J. Nolan (O’Loughlin Gaels), W. Phelan (Dunnamaggin), P. Walsh (Tullaroan), J. Corcoran (John Lockes), L. Harney (Kilmacow), B. Kennedy (St Lachtain’s), C. Buckley (Dicksboro), O. McGrath (John Lockes), R. Reid (Shamrocks), J. Power (Carrickshock), O. Walsh (Dicksboro),G. Aylward (Glenmore), K. Kelly (St Patrick’s), S. Donnelly (St Lachtain’s). Subs: J. Langton (Clara) for Nolan, 26 mins; M. Brennan (St Patrick’s) for Reid, 38 mins; C. Martin (Emeralds) for O. Walsh, 50 mins.
Offaly - C. Clancy, N. Wynne, D. Kelleher, M. Cleary, S. Gardner. P. Camon, D. King, T. Carroll, S. Cleary, S. Dolan, A. Kealey, P. Geraghty, S. Quirke, T. Geraghty, A. Hynes. Sub: J. Sampson for Kealey, 57 mins.
Referee - J. Heffernan (Wexford).